Curated preaching illustrations and anecdotes from Fr. Tony Kadavil. NEW! Now with videos; Also includes Fr. Tony’s commentary, and Children illustrations/object sermons.
3rd Sunday of Advent, Year C
THE PHILOSOPHY OF X (9:28) – Social studies teacher Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey) gives his class an assignment: look at the world around you and fix what you don’t like. One student comes up with an idea: #1 it is something that really helps people; #2 something they can’t do it by themselves; and #3 do it for them, then do it for three other people.
The central theme of today’s readings is the command “Rejoice!” We are to do so mainly by realizing the presence of Jesus in our midst, by receiving Jesus into our lives through our repentance, our renewal of life, and by doing God’s will. Today is called “Gaudete” Sunday because today’s Mass begins with the opening antiphon, “Gaudete in Domino semper” (“Rejoice in the Lord always”). Today we light the rose candle of the Advent wreath, and the priest may wear rose vestments, to express our communal joy in the coming of Jesus as our Savior. We rejoice because a) we are celebrating the day of Christ’s birth, b) we recognize Jesus’ daily presence in our midst, and c) we wait for Christ’s return in glory.
Homily Starter Anecdote
The conventional wisdom is that every homily should begin with a story to capture the congregation’s attention and to introduce the theme.
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In today’s first reading, the prophet Zephaniah encourages Jerusalem and Israel to shout out for the joy of their expected deliverance by the Lord. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Is 12:6), the prophet Isaiah gives the same instruction, “Shout with exultation, O city of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”
St. Paul echoes this message of joy in the second reading, a letter written from imprisonment: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again, rejoice…”
In the Gospel today, John the Baptist explains the secret of Christian joy as our wholehearted commitment to God’s Way by the doing of His will. John challenges people to generosity and a sense of fairness so that others may have reason to rejoice. According to John, happiness comes from doing our duties faithfully, doing good for others, and sharing our blessings with others in need. John’s call to repentance is a call to joy and restoration. Repentance means a change in the purpose and direction of our lives. John tells the people to act with justice, charity, and honesty, letting their lives reflect their transformation. For us, that transformation occurs when Christ enters our lives, and it is to be reflected in our living in the ways John suggests.
We are called to a change of life
First, we should examine our relationships with others. We must mend ruptures, ease or relieve frictions, face family responsibilities, work honestly, and treat employees and employers justly. Our domestic and social lives must be put in order. We must abandon our selfish thirst for consumption and, instead, be filled with the expectation of Jesus’ coming.
We need to remember that we are, like John the Baptist, Christ’s precursors
Parents, teachers, and public servants act as Christ’s precursors by repenting of their sins, reforming their lives, and bringing Christ into the lives of those entrusted to their care. Parents are expected to instill in their children a true Christian spirit and an appreciation for Christian values by their own lives and behavior. All public servants need to remember that they are God’s instruments and that they are to lead the people they serve to the feet of Jesus, so that they, too, may know him personally and accept him as their Savior, Lord and Brother.
End of homily
Jokes of the Week
At the end of Mass, some priests like to offer a joke to their parishioners. Please be sensitive though to particular circumstances or concerns. Some Jokes may not be suitable for particular times, placeS, OR CONGREGATIONS.
#1: “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none” (Lk 3:11): I once heard of a Christian speaker who declared rhetorically, expecting the answer, “Yes”‘: “If you had two houses, you would give one to the poor, wouldn’t you?” “Yes,” said the man to whom the question was directed, “indeed I would.” “And if you had two cars,” went on the speaker, “you would keep one and give the other away?” “Yes, of course,” said the man. “And if you had two shirts, you would give one away?” “Hey, wait a minute,” said the man, “I’ve got two shirts.”
# 2: Usher Seats Pastor’s Mother: An elderly woman walked into the local country church. A friendly usher greeted her at the door and helped her up the flight of steps. “Where would you like to sit?” he asked. “The front row please,” she answered. “You really don’t want to do that,” the usher said. “The pastor is really boring with his long Advent homilies.” “Do you happen to know who I am?” asked the woman. “No,” said the usher. “I’m the pastor’s mother,” she replied indignantly. “Do you know who I am?” the usher asked. “No,” she said. “Good.” Said the usher.
Fr. Tony started his homily ministry (Scriptural Homilies) in 2003 while he was the chaplain at Sacred Heart residence, applying his scientific methodology to the homily ministry. By word of mouth, it spread to hundreds of priests and Deacons, finally reaching Vatican Radio website (http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html). Fr. Tony’s homilies reach nearly 3000 priests and Deacons by direct email every week. Since Fr. Tony is retiring from parish duties, he has started a personal website: https://frtonyshomilies.com/ where he has started putting his Sunday and weekday homilies, RCIA lessons, Faith Formation articles and other useful items for pastors and pastoral assistants. Fr. Tony warmly invites priests and deacons and the public to visit his website and use it for their preaching and teaching ministries. He welcomes your corrections, modifications and suggestions to improve the homilies and articles given in this website.
Captain Leonard Larue
CURRENTS NEWS (4:17) – Brother Marinus Leonard Larue has been described as one man with two lives. From saving 14-thousand Korean refugees during the Korean War as a U.S. Merchant Marine Captain, to becoming a Benedictine Monk, his canonization cause has been advanced by his Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey.
During the Korean War, Communist forces invaded the city of Hungnam and began mass executions of Koreans who were suspected of sympathizing with the American cause. The American Navy responded to this atrocity by sending 200 ships to evacuate the refugees from Hungnam.
On December 22, 1950, Captain Leonard LaRue and his crew steered their ship, Meredith Victory, in to the Hungnam harbor. The Meredith Victory was only supposed to be delivering jet fuel, but they were immediately called into service as a refugee ship. Over 14,000 desperate Korean refugees crowded onto the ship. Captain LaRue said a silent prayer as his men pulled up the anchor and headed for South Korea.
Over the next few days, the crew and passengers endured freezing temperatures. There was only enough food and water to keep them all from starving, but not enough to satisfy their hunger. They were in constant danger from enemy fire. But as they sailed for a safe port, Captain LaRue took comfort in the thought that Mary and Joseph and Jesus had also known hunger and cold and danger.
In the midst of hardship, Captain LaRue also reported a change in his men’s attitudes. They gave away their own food and clothing to the refugees. Seven babies were born on the ship, each one delivered by teams of unskilled sailors.
On Christmas Day, 1950, the Meredith Victory landed in safe harbor. Not a single life had been lost on the voyage. Captain Leonard LaRue received high military awards from the South Korean and the U.S. government for his part in the refugee rescue.
Four years later, Captain LaRue left the military to join a Benedictine monastery, where he spent the rest of his life. In his journals, he once wrote, “The clear, unmistakable message comes to me that, on that Christmastide in the bleak and bitter waters off the shore of Korea, God’s hand was at the helm of my ship.” [Thomas Fleming, “Precious Cargo,” Guideposts (December 2002), pp. 29-32] And indeed it was.
John was no “gander preacher”
Soren Kierkegaard the well-known philosopher of Denmark has a famous fable about geese. The geese in a certain farmyard decided to gather together every seventh day. At that time, one of the ganders would mount the fence and preach to his fellow geese about their lofty destiny. The pulpit gander would recall the exploits of their forefathers and praise God for the gift of flight bestowed upon them. The congregation of fowl would flap their wings in hearty agreement. This routine happened every week. After each assembly the geese would break up and waddle to their respective places in the farmyard and eat the grain the kind farmer had scattered on the ground for them. On Monday morning the geese would chat about Sunday’s sermon and discuss what might happen if they took to the skies once again. They might get lost or even worse, they might get shot. There was little doubt among them that the best thing was to linger in the farmyard with its security. The sermons would stir them and that was sufficient. It was good to hear what they could be and do, as long as they need not do it or be it! All the while they didn’t realize they were being fattened for the holiday tables of the farmer and his friends.
That happened in a fable on fowl but it can, and all too frequently does, happen in a Church service on Sunday. The people are told simply what they must do. When John was through preaching, the people asked questions about deeds … what they should do. And then, having been so guided in their thoughts, they received and acted upon the Holy Spirit’s prompting , immediately doing that which they had learned was pleasing to the Lord.
John the Baptist’s challenge for a new beginning
WATCH MOJO (5:52) – Beginning with the end of the U.S. Civil War in 1865, African Americans toiled to reach equal status in the eyes of the law. Not only that, they also struggled against abuse – both physical and mental – by racist members of society. Starting with the right to vote, and then laboring to integrate schools and other aspects of everyday life, the Civil Rights Movement made huge strides over a century of work. While the crusade may never truly be over, many considered the election of the country’s first African American President to be a turning point in the battle.
So often in history the very best people in society find themselves on the other side, opposing God, as the Pharisees did. It’s only later that we see God’s hand at work. Let’s look at our own society. It’s difficult for young people today to believe, but some of the people in this congregation remember the time when African-American men and women were, by law, second-class citizens.
In some parts of our country they were not allowed into the better restaurants or hotels. They had to use separate drinking fountains and rest rooms. They had to ride in the back seats of public transportation. And, of course, many children went to segregated schools. This was the law, and many white people, even Church people, supported. it.
Barely 100 years earlier, landowners, primarily in the South, held, or “owned,” African-Americans as slaves. Imagine that–owning another person–in the United States! What would make anyone think they had such a right?
As we look back on it now, we realize how barbaric and horrible it was, and we are ashamed. Yet, only 58 years ago, when civil rights marchers took to the streets in 1963 demanding equal rights, there were many religious people who denounced them as agents of the devil. You and I can see today that surely God has been at work in our country making us the kind of society we should be, but often we only recognize the hand of God in the rear-view mirror.
“Always winter and never Christmas”
MOVIE CLIP (2:15) – While playing HIde-and-seek, Lucy Pevensie walks into a room and found a covered wardrobe. She removed the cloak that covers the wardrobe and opened it and entered the wardrobe door. Not knowingly, she already discovered Narnia.
In the second chapter of C.S. Lewis’ book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, little Lucy stumbles through the back of a wardrobe into the imaginary country of Narnia. Although it’s summer in England (where the wardrobe sits), it’s winter in Narnia. Shivering in the cold, Lucy soon meets a faun, Mr. Tumnus, who tells her what wintertime is like in Narnia. The wintertime is perpetual, says Mr. Tumnus, and is the result of someone called the White Witch. “It’s she who makes it always winter (here),” Tumnus says, “Always winter and never Christmas; think of that!”
What a wonderful description of a world without Christ: “Always winter and never Christmas . . .”
STEPHEN LASH (3:23) – An adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “the Birthmark”
Repentance is relationship. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a short story titled, “The Birthmark.” It is a story about a man who married a very beautiful woman who had a birthmark on her left cheek. She had always thought of it as a beauty spot, but her husband saw the birthmark to be a sign of imperfection, a flaw. It began wearing on him so much that all he could see was that birthmark. He could not see her beauty, her graciousness, or her great personality. He could only focus on what he perceived to be a flaw. He hounded her until she finally submitted to surgery to remove the so-called flaw. The birthmark eventually faded, but so did she. In Hawthorne’s mind, that birthmark was tied to her identity and shortly after its removal, she died. A man who sought perfection ended up with nothing.
That is not the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That is not the God that we come to worship today. Nevertheless, when we think about Advent and hear words like “repentance” and “perfection,” many times we get negative connotations in our minds. But today’s Gospel tells us that is something positive. Repentance means to change the direction of your life. It means to make a 180-degree turn, start walking toward God, His vision, His aim, and His goal for your life.
Rejoicing in facial paralysis
TRULY (7:14) – HAVING a giant birthmark has taught a body positivity advocate how to accept herself for who she is and spread an inspiring message of self-love. Nathalia, of Los Angeles, was born in Brazil with a rare condition known as Congenital Melanocytic Nevus, which caused her to have a birthmark that covered 40% of her face and scalp, as well as “satellite marks” all over her body. Throughout her childhood in Porto Alegre, Nathalia underwent nine surgeries between the ages of nine months and 13 years, to remove the birthmark, which has left her with significant scarring on one side of her face. But she hasn’t let her hardships hold her back from inspiring others with her story. She told Barcroft Studios: “When I see myself in the mirror, I see a pretty woman. I love my hair, I love my eyebrow, and my smile.”
A few years ago The Reader’s Digest reported the story of an attractive and successful business woman who noticed a small lump behind her ear as she was brushing her hair one morning. As the days went on, she noticed that the lump was getting larger, so she decided to see her doctor. Her worst fears were confirmed. The doctor told her that the lump was a large tumor that would require immediate surgery.
When she awoke following the surgery, she found her entire head wrapped like that of a mummy. She could see herself in a mirror only through two tiny holes cut into the wrapping. When the bandages were removed after a week, she was shocked to see that her once attractive features had become disfigured by a facial paralysis caused perhaps by damage to facial nerves during the removal of the tumor. Standing before the mirror, she told herself that she had to make a choice whether to laugh or to cry. She decided to laugh.
Although the various therapies tried were unsuccessful in alleviating the facial paralysis, her decision to laugh in the face of adversity allowed this woman to carry on with her life with joy, giving encouragement to those with similar paralysis.
Wow! No catalogue or announcement can replace the real thing!
I remember one summer when I was a very young, maybe eight years of age. Mother dug out the “Monky” Wards [Montgomery-Ward] and Sears catalogues, set them in front of me, and told me that for Christmas I could pick any one thing that I would like Santa Claus to bring for Christmas – provided it did not cost more than fifty cents. Wow! What wonderful news! Maybe Mother’s motives were just to keep me occupied and out of her way. Whatever the reason, I discovered another world of dreams and desires, and the next few weeks and months were spent tirelessly going over many pictures of toy airplanes and tanks, hunting knives, fishing odds and ends – everything a young lad just had to have but requiring a special and deliberate choice! When Advent rolled around, it was an even more intense time of waiting in eager anticipation, albeit for the wrong thing. — In his time, Isaiah the Prophet was sent by the Lord to bring Good News to those who really needed to hear about the abundant blessings waiting for them. Centuries later, John the Baptist was given the same calling, and pointed out to his listeners that Someone was already in their midst, the Light of the world that they did not yet recognize. For those with hope, that was absolutely wonderful news, because it pointed to the long-awaited Messiah!
Now, “fast forward” to today. As believers, we already know that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, is indeed among us. His Real Presence is available to us at every Mass, when we celebrate the Eucharistic liturgy and receive His precious Body and Blood. Wow! No catalogue or announcement can replace the real thing! And yet, Advent is a time to remember all of these things: the promise, the waiting, the fulfillment of all in Jesus Christ, the Son of God! There remains the additional promise of a second coming. Are you as eager for Jesus Christ to return as you surely ought to be? How are you preparing your heart for his return? (Fr. Robert F. McNamara).
Please be patient
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Please be patient
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